Why do we join groups and follow leaders? We join groups and follow political, military, and religious leaders for the following reasons:
We are threatened with death or imprisonment if we do not. Sometimes, religions are spread by the threat of death. If we don’t convert, we will be punished or killed. Sometimes, when there is a war, we are threatened with imprisonment if we don’t join the armed forces. And sometimes political leaders threaten to punish us if we don’t join their coalition.
We want to join with a group or cause that is greater than ourselves. Sometimes, when we feel isolated or ostracized, we are tempted to join a group that offers acceptance and the feeling that we are needed. This group can make us feel important or validated, and when we follow the leader of the group, he might praise us or show his approval in other ways.
We want to relinquish responsibility for our actions and let another person make the hard decisions. Those who join the armed forces might do so partly because they don’t want to make their own weighty decisions. They might want to hand the decision-making power to a supposedly more knowledgeable superior. Those who join a religion sometimes don’t want to think for themselves, so they let the authorities decide what rules they should follow. If we join a political group, it can be easier to let the leader decide which course of action the group should take.
For these reasons and others, we choose to follow leaders and join groups. However, is it good to give up our convictions when we are threatened with punishment? Is it good to join a group that excludes others and might even plan the destruction of others’ lives? Is it good to give up our personal responsibility and follow orders blindly?
What can we do if we don’t want to blindly follow a human leader? We can try to do everything by ourselves, live in isolation, and never take advice from anyone. Or, we can listen to the “still, small voice” that knows the best course of action in every circumstance. However, this requires that we accept that there are spirits that know more than humans, that we acknowledge that humans are not the most intelligent beings in existence, and that we trust that the spirit that we heed has our best interests at heart.
Not all spirits have good intentions, so we must use our discernment and learn to listen to only those spirits that promote peace, love, and wellbeing for all. As Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody.” The question is whether we are blindly serving an imperfect human leader or joining with the will and thinking of a benevolent God (and the spirits who follow Him), for God has a solution for every situation and an answer to every confusing decision. Are we willing to follow Him even when it isn’t easy?